It’s not unusual for us to fall in love with people who are quite different from us. Once the initial infatuation evaporates, those differences will not only become annoying and difficult — they won't go away. When this happens, “Why aren’t you me?” is the question that underlies our annoyance. “You don’t see things the way I do; therefore, you’re wrong. You don’t like the people I like or value the experiences I care about. Even worse, you fall asleep at football games or at concerts.”
Add holiday stresses to that tension, and the situation can play out dramatically. The way we feel outside the relationship will affect the way we feel within it, and vice versa. Whether you’ve been together since last year or for decades, high-stress periods can cause you to be more reactive and defensive. We give our partner less of a break at just the time when we really need to cut them some slack.
Generosity is key here — that, and a willingness to find ways to tolerate our differences. These efforts are what will fortify a relationship, and keep yours from falling victim to holiday anxieties. Here are a few of the major points of conflict couples face this time of year, and my strategies to handle them healthily: